Te Anau Tennis Invitational organiser 'working on' serving up world class exhibition doubles match
A proposed world class exhibition doubles match featuring French Open champion Michael Venus, could be on the cards if Te Anau Tennis Invitational organiser Greg Sheppard gets his way.
Venus could be joined by Queenstown's Japanese Davis Cup player Ben McLachlan and New Zealand's other top two doubles players Artem Sitak and Marcus Daniell at the end of the first day of the $20,000 tournament, which starts on December 28.
The mouthwatering matchup would see three of the world's top-70 men's doubles exponents take the court alongside McLachlan who has a world doubles ranking of 139.
According to Sheppard, players in the tournament must be eligible to represent New Zealand, but the exhibition match would be an excellent opportunity to include "local lad" McLachlan who has recently switched his allegiance to Japan.
"We want to include Ben [McLachlan] in a high class doubles match and we are working on Mike Venus and Artem Sitak," Sheppard said.
"We want him here is we are going to be pushing for an exhibition or a proper doubles match at the end of play on the first day, because he is a very good doubles player and we want to include him in that and we are working on a pretty good game of doubles."
"We still really want to include him because he has been a big part of our work to date, he has played every year, we will wait and see, because we want a local kid in there."
Sheppard is trying to work through the player logistics, with 2015 Te Anau champion Venus' potential inclusion more likely to be in an exhibition doubles match, than in the singles tournament.
World No.15 Venus has been concentrating on doubles recently, picking up the French Open title and making the US Open mixed doubles final.
"I emailed him, he's keen, he's expressing interest, it's just if he makes the World Tour finals, which he very well could, which is the big finale at the end of the year then that makes the season quite long," Sheppard said.
"He's just worried he is not going to have enough down time between that and the Australian Open and he gets back into it."
"I don't know if we will get him playing singles down here because that might be a bit much, he hasn't been playing singles for so long but we could get him down for one night just to play that game of doubles it would be a crowd pleaser, he is almost famous now, he is good."
Marina Erakovic was a drawcard as part of an exhibition match last year and Sheppard is hoping that another doubles match would add to the spectacle of this summer's event.
McLachlan who qualifies for Japan through his mother, will play in their Davis Cup World Group playoff against Brazil starting on September 17 in Osaka.
The 25-year-old is the top ranked Japanese doubles player after sitting behind Venus, Sitak and Daniell in the New Zealand doubles rankings.
There are five players confirmed for December's tournament, with 2016 winner Rubin Statham, joined by Marcus Daniell, Finn Tearney, Connor Heap and Wesley Whitehouse.
NZ Paralympian Bryall McPherson will be an umpire at the tournament.